Gameday: UNC vs. GT

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina has been all over the news lately, but not because of its match-up Saturday with No. 18 Georgia Tech. While apparently close to naming Butch Davis as John Bunting's successor, the Tar Heels are focused on upsetting the Yellow Jackets. Kick-off at Kenan is at noon and will be televised by LFN.

"Personally, I don't know much about Coach Davis," running back Bobby Rome said. "All I know is right now, I play for John Bunting. That's my coach. When there's three zeros across the scoreboard after the Duke game, that's when I'm going to start thinking about who Butch Davis is and try to find out more about him."

"We're just focused on the game," senior cornerback Jacoby Watkins added. "Regardless of who they bring in as coach, he can't help us right now. We have three more games to play and until those three games are over, we're not worried about him. We're committed to Coach Bunting now.

"I know [Davis] did a good job at Miami," Watkins said. "Other than that, I really don't know that much about him. I think it would be great if we could get him. I'd love to see him coach here."

Tech linebacker Gary Guyton sympathized with Carolina's current coaching situation, "I can imagine not having a coach, you might feel a little down as a team, but you still have to play as a team. Coaches can come and go every year, so you have to look at your team and be a family."

UNC (1-8, 0-5 ACC) is in search of its first Division I-A victory, while the Yellow Jackets (7-2, 5-1) can clinch a berth in the ACC Championship game with a win.

Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said of Carolina's disappointing season, "When you look at the personnel, especially looking at guys that have been there forever like Jesse Holley and Ronnie McGill… These are good football players that we've seen do it before and all of a sudden it hasn't come together for them. I think if you had taken a poll in preseason that said, `Of all these teams who do you think would be 1-8?' I don't believe anybody would have picked Carolina."

Carolina doesn't have a win to show for it, but since Bunting's firing on Oct. 22, whether spawned by the emotion of a forthcoming coaching change or not, the Tar Heels have been visibly more competitive in losses to two ranked teams – Wake Forest and Notre Dame.

"We just understand better what we're supposed to be doing, offensively, defensively and on special teams," Watkins added. "We keep cutting down on mistakes, and we'll continue to improve."

Rome said the Tar Heels have not packed it in despite their win-loss record.

"We always knew we had talent," Rome said. "We know we would be cheating ourselves as a team if we didn't go out there and try to win."

Crucial errors still haunt the team at times, but the offense has finally been kick started both in its ground and air attacks. Joe Dailey said he felt more at ease with rolling out of the pocket versus the Fighting Irish, and it showed in his best performance to date as UNC's quarterback – 213 yards passing and three touchdowns without an interception.

Hakeem Nicks, the ACC's second-leading receiver, is earning consideration for Rookie of the Year honors, while after a slow start to the season Ronnie McGill now has 584 net rushing yards.

Defensively, Carolina continues to struggle but has managed to get pressure on the quarterback more often of late.

Connor Barth continues to kick well and Brandon Tate broke off his first touchdown return of the season last week.

"They made some big plays (against Notre Dame), so we'll have to make sure they don't make those big plays against us," Gailey said.

Tech has a bona fide NFL first round draft pick in wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Reggie Ball has enjoyed some success versus the Tar Heels over his college career as a four-year starter.

"Reggie Ball is a good quarterback, but the offense all starts with Calvin Johnson," Watkins said. "I look forward to facing a big-time receiver."

The Yellow Jackets' defense, coached by former UNC assistant Jon Tenuta, also presents a stiff challenge for the Carolina offense.

"Defensively, we're all familiar with some of the good things they've done down there in the past and in the recent past," Bunting said. "That will be something for us to contend with up front in terms of their defense, their pressures and their movements."

  • As reported Tuesday, senior linebacker Larry Edwards has made a remarkable recovery to return from injury. Bunting said then that he hoped Edwards could return for the N.C. State game in two weeks.

    But Bunting upgraded his status on Thursday. Edwards practiced full contact the past two days, and will start Saturday versus Georgia Tech.

    "We'll be monitoring his reps," Bunting said. "We'll have someone in for him in nickel packages. He may not play as much as normally, but he's ready to play versus Georgia Tech and he's going to start."

    Edwards' college career appeared to be over after he suffered a broken left collarbone during pre-game warm-ups prior to the South Florida game on Oct. 14.

  • Inside Carolina Top Stories